At Stern Companies, responsive service and innovative solutions provide efficiency.
The Stern Companies are not content with simple success.
In fact, the more positives that are attained, the more energy goes into enhancing the operation to ensure even more celebration going forward.
The Minnesota-based plastic and rubber manufacturer recently created a division specializing in rotational molded components, and another focused on assembly services. The company subsequently secured a contract for assembly and manufacturing of agricultural equipment of Geringhoff, a German company that’s building a $20 million manufacturing plant in St. Cloud, Minn.
Stern’s president and CEO, Shawn Hunstad, expects more work in the agriculture sector and expects manufacturers in other industries will seek solutions involving polymers/plastics that weigh less than metal, but are equally or more durable. And by adding capabilities and services in the stretch following the Great Recession, opportunities may arise in spaces where consolidation has limited options.
“We went through tough times in the recession like everyone else, but have come out of that with a different perspective,” Hunstad said. “When everyone was growing in the early 2000s, it felt like you couldn’t do anything wrong. Today, we’re very diligent about growth and we understand the business we’re going after. We’re diversifying, looking for new customers and continuing to focus on services that add value and benefit to the customers we already have.
“The building of relationships has been our key to success.”
Hunstad got his start with the Stern operation when he was hired to do outside sales by the Stern Rubber Company, which specialized in custom molded rubber components. He eventually came off the road to assist in the office with increasing demand tied to a boom in the housing market. The company began farming some work out to other companies, which prompted Hunstad’s engagement with both rubber component suppliers and the manufacturers requiring those products.
Through the knowledge acquired from those exposures, he spearheaded the development of Stern Companies, an operation through which supplier and customer clients could work to source all necessary materials. Stern has evolved into a one-stop shop for rubber and plastic components, and Hunstad said the business model works because of a particular lean toward transparency in the process.
“Some may find that scary,” he said. “I think the more open you are, and the more transparent it is, the better it is for all involved.”
These days, if a manufacturer requires a component and talks to a company doing compression molding, the salesman would typically attempt to sell the engineer on the benefits of that production system, when in fact, an injection molded platform would be more efficient and cost effective. Since he doesn’t have an agenda to sell one type of production method over another, Hunstad can meet with engineers, acquire an understanding of the specific part they need and the application in which it will serve, and provide several alternatives based solely on the manufacturer’s need, free of bias for one supplier.
“I don’t have a direct affiliation with any one supplier, so I can give an unbiased opinion on what may work best for the best price,” he said. “The role of Stern Companies is to provide the means to access any solution.”
AT A GLANCE
WHO: Stern Companies
WHAT: Global sourcing and manufacturing specialist in the plastic and rubber industries
WHERE: Baxter, Minn.